Lawtina Graduate Feature: Elisa Huapilla Miron
My name is Elisa Huapilla Miron and I will graduate with my Juris Doctor (J.D.) from Ave Maria School of Law. It feels so surreal to finally earn my J.D. because, little girls like me areoften not encouraged to dream big. I am a first-generation Mexican American mujer. My parents are Mexican immigrants who had to immigrate to the United States for economic reasons.Once they arrived, they had to settle for back breaking labor in the fields. Every season we had to move across different states such as Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina. My elementary and middle school education was often interrupted with every move. I always tried my best to adapt to each school and meet academic standards.
Every summer we would travel to Quincy, a small, rural town in the Florida panhandle. I would visit the library on thedays I was not in summer school or in the fields with my parents. Eventually, the local librarian, Ms. Kelly, took aninterest in me. She would help me find books when I visited. Thereafter it became my favorite place to go during the summer months. One day Ms. Kelly asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up and I told her I did not know. I had no idea what type of professions existed because the only adults I knew worked in the fields. The idea that I could become anything I wanted to be was foreign to me. The conversation that ensued sparked a fire that forever changed my life.
The nature of my parent’s job required my family to live day by day. They would often leave before dawn and return after dusk. My life was simply based on our daily happenings with no thought of what the future could hold. Despite my reality, Iknew that I wanted to work hard like my parents. Ms. Kelly, the librarian followed up, “What would you like to do for work?” I responded, “I want to work very hard.” She was confused but continued, “Work hard doing what?” I answered, “ I don’t know.” Then she said, “Well lawyers work very hard, have you thought about that?” I told Ms. Kelly that I did not know what a lawyer did so she gave me a book about lawyers. When I went back to return the book I told her that I wanted to become a lawyer. She immediately logged into her computer and helped me research how to become a lawyer. After she told me all the steps I had to take, how many years I had to study, and how much it would cost, a new reality set in: I could dream of one day becoming an attorney but, it would only be a dream.
In high school, I enrolled at Immokalee High School to complete my high school studies without having to move every quarter. I developed a more personal relationship with my teachers since I was attending the same school during the entire school year. I met Ms. Ada Campos who encouraged me to apply to Florida State University. I was accepted and in 2012 I became the first person in my immediate and extended family to complete a 4 year college degree. I completed my bachelor’sdegree with honors however, I did not have the financial meansto attend law school. After graduation, I took an opportunity to intern abroad on a military base while I worked on my Master’s degree. The graduate level credits were significantly discounted and I was given a stipend for the internship. Due to a variety of reasons, both financial and personal, I had to return to Florida and pause my Masters studies. For the next five years I debated on continuing my Master’s studies or pursue a Law degree. Eventually, I settled in Immokalee, Florida to work as a teacher. There I came across Ave Maria School of Law and their generous scholarship program. I knew then that it was time to apply for law school. I applied to law schools across the country and I got accepted into 10 law schools. I decided to stay in my hometown and commute to school.
Law school was challenging. I had to constantly remindmyself that quitting never became an option for my parentsdespite how hard they worked. Additionally, my husband encouraged me to stay the course and complete law school. One of the hardest things for me was to have individual conversations with professors because I felt inadequate if I could not understand the material. Eventually, I found the courage to visit my law professors one-on-one to review the subject matter for their law course. I also reached out to my classmates and found a helpful study group. I was able to excel in my law studies once I knew what worked for me. I made the Dean’s Honor Roll in Fall 2018, Spring 2019, and Fall 2019. The Dean’s Honor Roll is awarded to upper-level students who take a full semester course load of which at least 9 credit hours are in graded courses, and achieved a semester grade point average of 3.50 or above. Additionally, our school awards the CALI Excellence for the Future Award to the highest scoring student in each law school class. I earned two CALI awards, one in Professional Responsibility and the other in Business Organizations. Moreover, our school has a Pro Bono Recognition program for law students who complete over 50 hours of volunteer legal assistance for people who cannot afford a lawyer or traditional legal services. I received the recognition award after completing over 100 pro bono hours to immigrants in the Immokalee community.
I became a first time mom in the fall semester of my 3L year. It was hard to manage childcare and school work. My family and my husband’s family stepped in to support us through this journey. They all came together to help me with providing the best childcare for my new born son while I continued my legal studies. My parents provided childcare on a regular basis. My in-laws helped me with taking care of my son during exam time. I owe the biggest thank you to my husband for encouraging me to complete this degree. It is important to recognize our families because they have been instrumental in helping me achieve my educational goals. Their support and sacrifice have once again help me become the first person in my immediate and extended family to get a doctorate level degree.
My wish is that more Latinas join me in achieving this major educational milestone. My advice to future lawtinas is to build a strong support system and never be afraid to reach out to them. Once you have made the commitment to pursue higher education, challenging moments are inevitable. Nonetheless, it is helpful to have people you can rely on for support. Moreover, never give up on your dreams despite the many hardships you will come across. Dreams do come true!